Posted on January 1, 2022
The first weekend of traditional conference play has been fractured by COVID-postponements.
Two rescheduled matchups have been moved to Monday, and there’s only one game on Saturday.
Utah completes its Oregon trip with a matchup in Eugene, Arizona State takes on California at Haas Pavilion, Washington travels to Tucson to face Arizona, and Colorado makes up its game with Oregon.
I preview all four matchups here, and my picks appear at the bottom.
Washington at Arizona
McKale Center, Tucson, AZ
Monday, January 3
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
But some home-cooking against a struggling Washington team should get UA back into the groove. Mike Hopkins’ program is led by Arizona-transfer Terrell Brown Jr, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring with 21.4 points per game.
The Dawgs aren’t as committed to their zone defense this season, and may run some man looks against Tommy Lloyd’s offense.
Bennedict Mathurin leads the way for Arizona, which tops the nation in points per game at 89.5. Yet, Azuolas Tubelis figures to be the one who comes out firing, after the Lithuanian-big was severely limited by foul trouble against the Vols.
The early start time on Monday is odd for a Conference game, but the Wildcats figure to run away with this one. Look for UA to have a hot game from deep, with Kerr Kriisa putting up 20 points or more.
Colorado at Oregon
Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
Monday, January 3
7:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
The Ducks haven’t lived up to expectations through the nonconference season, yet Dana Altman’s squads always get it together by March.
Oregon will be tasked with slowing down Jabari Walker and CU’s outside shooting. The sophomore forward’s status is questionable after suffering an apparent concussion against Cal State Bakersfield, but he should be full-go after a 16-day break since the injury.
Facing a UO team with depth down low, Walker and Evan Battey must get it done from the mid-range and beyond. Both are capable of knocking down threes, while Battey’s mid-range game has been on full display this season.
If the duo shoot the ball efficiently and stay out of foul trouble, Colorado has a chance to pull off the road victory.
Earlier Games This Week
Utah at Oregon
Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
Saturday, January 1
7:30 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
The system is designed to force turnovers and get opponents out of their rhythm by putting pressure on guards. It creates traps near mid-court when wings are forced to help bring the ball up, snowballing into a turnover-generating machine when executed effectively.
David Jenkins Jr., Marco Anthony, and Rollie Worster all must take care of the ball at Matthew Knight Arena. And down low, Branden Carlson must deal with Oregon’s height and strength.
Altman can throw N’Faly Dante, Franck Kepnang, Nate Bittle, and Isaac Johnson at Carlson to slow him down. The depth inside provides UO with a buffer that will allow its bigs to play aggressive against Utah’s leading scorer.
Facing a mismatch down low, the Utes could still pull off the upset if Jenkins Jr. gets hot from deep.
Arizona State at California
Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
Sunday, January 2
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
Mark Fox’s team is off to their hottest start since he took over the program, advancing to an 8-5 record on the backs of Andre Kelly, Grant Anticevich, and Jordan Shepherd. The trio combine for 62.2 percent of California’s scoring, with Kelly shooting 60.3 percent from the field.
The Bears face a Sun Devil squad that has slowly but surely found its identity. Bobby Hurley’s team has arguably played the toughest schedule in the Conference, and have incrementally improved since November.
A low scoring team, ASU gets it done through its defense. Posting 4.6 blocks per game, Hurley has a nine-deep rotation that’s a mix of quick guards and lanky bigs.
If California successfully navigates Arizona State’s defense with consistent outside and mid-range shooting, the Bears should come out on top.
January 1-2 Game Picks
January 3 Game Picks
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